If you don’t have time to work out during the day and follow an evening exercise routine, could it keep you up at night?

It’s widely believed that sleep quality can be negatively affected by exercise in the evening.

However, research from the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport at ETH Zurich has found that moderate intensity exercise shortly before bedtime does not negatively affect sleep.

The scientists analysed 23 studies and concluded that doing exercise in the four hours before going to bed does not have a negative effect on sleep and may even be beneficial.

Benefits of exercising before bed

“If doing sport in the evening has any effect on sleep quality at all, it’s rather a positive effect, albeit only a mild one,” says Christina Spengler, head of the Exercise Physiology Lab at ETH Zurich.

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The researchers showed that, in the night after study participants had done some sport in the evening, they spent 21,2 percent of their sleeping time in deep sleep. Following an evening without exercise, the average figure was 19,9 percent.

While the difference is small, it is statistically significant. Deep sleep phases are especially important for physical recovery.

The exception to the rule

Vigorous training within an hour before bedtime is an exception to the rule.

According to this analysis, it is the only type of evening exercise that may have a negative effect on sleep. “However, this preliminary observation is based on just one study,” Spengler says.

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“As a rule of thumb, vigorous training is defined as training in which a person is unable to talk. Moderate training is physical activity of an intensity high enough that a person would no longer be able to sing, but they could speak,” Spengler says.

One example of vigorous training is the kind of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that competitive athletes often perform. In many cases, though, a long endurance run or a long ride on a racing bike would fall into the moderate training category.

As the analysis showed, it took study participants who completed an intensive training session shortly before bedtime longer to fall asleep. This is because the test subjects were not able to recover sufficiently in the hour before they went to bed. Their hearts were still beating more than 20 beats per minute faster than their resting heart rate.

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Exercise boosts sleep quality

According to the official recommendations of sports physicians, people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

“People can do exercise in the evening without hesitation. The data shows that moderate exercise in the evening is no problem at all,” says Jan Stutz, a doctoral student in Spengler’s research group and lead author of the analysis. “However, vigorous training or competitions should be scheduled earlier in the day, if possible,” Stutz says.

“It is well known that doing exercise during the day improves sleep quality,” Spengler says, adding: “Now we have shown that, at the very least, exercising in the evening doesn’t have a negative effect.”

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Source: ETH Zurich via www.sciencedaily.com 

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